A pair of Nationals were nominated for National League Gold Glove Awards this week. First baseman Adam LaRoche and shortstop Ian Desmond were both named finalists as the best defensive player at their position. American League and National League managers and coaches voted on the players in their respective leagues, excluding those on their own team, and the results were to be announced on Tuesday night on ESPN2.
Desmond appeared in 128 games at shortstop for Washington in what was his third year as the starter at that position. The player who made 34 errors in his first full season in the majors in 2010 cut them to 23 last season and made just 15 in 2012. That’s in large part because he – at the advice of his coaches – became a more conservative fielder. No more low-percentage throws after great stops. But Desmond’s range at short remains excellent. According to the Revised Zone Rating stat employed by the statistical web site FanGraphs.com, no shortstop in the game converted a higher percentage of balls that were hit into his area into outs (.855). The other shortstop finalists were Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart, Miami’s Jose Reyes and the Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins.
LaRoche, who missed most of 2011 after surgery to repair a tear in the labrum of his left shoulder, was credited upon his return for helping make his teammates better thanks to his skills around the first-base bag. He successfully scooped 31 throws in the dirt and made just seven errors in an N.L.-high 1,323 1/3 innings.
The other finalists along with LaRoche were Cincinnati’s Joey Votto and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. FanGraphs uses an all-encompassing defensive stat known as UZR/150 to track a player’s defensive skills. LaRoche finished 2012 at 5.7. The only players with higher marks who spent the majority of their season in the National League were Votto (969 innings) and former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney (982 1/3), who was traded late in the season to the Boston Red Sox. Neither cracked 1,000 innings, however. Loney’s UZR/150 was 12.5 while Votto’s was 7.5.
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